Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mothapalooza! Registration Open!

 Mark your calendars and get your registration in! Although it's about 10 degrees outside as I write this and summer seems far off, the weekend of June 14th - 16th will be on us before we know it. And that's the weekend of Mothapalooza, which surely will be one of the more interesting natural history conferences yet conducted in Ohio. All of the details are RIGHT HERE. Read on for more about Mothapalooza, interspersed with photos of just a tiny sampling of the myriad moths that we'll encounter in and around Ohio's greatest wilderness lands, Shawnee State Forest and the adjoining Edge of Appalachia preserve.

We are especially pleased to be a part of, and collaborating with, National Moth Week. Our only hitch with this partnership is that scheduling conflicts don't permit us to hold Mothapalooza during the actual NMW, which is officially July 20-28. But we're still plugging NMW, and NMW is plugging Mothapalooza, so it's all good! Besides, every day is or should be a Moth Day! Be sure and visit the National Moth Week website, which is brimming with good stuff - RIGHT HERE!

Dave "Mothman" Horn sets up a light trap for moths while paparazzi document his work. Dave is one of numerous experts who will be part of Mothapalooza. Light traps will be set out at eight different locales throughout Shawnee and the Edge, and they'll draw scores of interesting critters. Guided trips via vans will take participants out into the black of night to visit the moth traps, and see some of the interesting creatures of the dark. NOTE: Brightly illuminated sheets such as above do not harm the moths, it only attracts them and makes it easy for us to admire and photograph the animals.

 Delicate Cycnia, Cycnia tenera

Mothapalooza will be based out of the stunning Shawnee State Park lodge, and the aforementioned Dave Horn will be giving a program in the conference room about, what else, moths. We are very fortunate to also have world call lepidopterist and "Mr. Caterpillar" himself, Dr. David Wagner from the University of Connecticut. Dave will be giving a presentation on caterpillars and how they make the natural world go around (moths come from caterpillars, you know). Dr. Wagner is truly a fabulous speaker, and you'll love his talk. He'll also be helping to lead field forays.

Little Beggar, Eubaphe mendica

In addition to Dave Horn and Dave Wagner, there'll be a Who's Who of the moth and natural history world involved with Mothapalooza. Many of the state's top experts have agreed to help with our specialized nocturnal field trips. Nary a moth should go unidentified, and that's saying something since we're likely to encounter hundreds of species.

 False Crocus Geometer, Xanthotype urticaria

Photographing moths at night can be a bit of a tricky business, but the rewards are great. Moths tend to be hugely under-appreciated, as they are largely out of sight, out of mind. Yet they are totally eye candy for the camera lens, and even the least expensive digital cameras excel at documenting the often ornate markings that adorn most species. John Howard and myself, who if nothing else have spent scores of hours afield at night trying to make images of moths, will conduct a workshop on photographic techniques, including the use of flash. My hunch is that there will be more moth images taken this weekend than will be made during the same time period in the states of Idaho, Rhode Island, and North Dakota combined.

Grapeleaf Skeletonizer, Harrisina americana

Dave Horn will also offer a workshop specifically on moth identification, and another special treat: Dr. Jaret Daniels, author of the Butterflies of Ohio, will be in the house. Jaret is giving a workshop on butterflies, and mid-June is phenomenal for the moths' daytime counterparts. There will also be daytime field trips to the highly specialized and extremely biodiverse habitats that are found around Shawnee and the Edge, and barring a monsoon (unlikely in mid-June) we'll see blizzards of butterflies. Some specialties such as Edward's and Juniper Hairstreaks, Hayhurst's Scallopwing, and Golden-banded Skipper should be findable.

Huckleberry Sphinx, Paonias astylus

It won't be all moths and butterflies, although those groups will be the focus depending on whether it's day or night. Shawnee and the Edge also support well over 1,000 species of native plants - that's why the butterfly and moth diversity is so great - so we'll also get an immersion into the world of botany. There are many rare - and VERY rare! - plants in this part of the world, and we'll certainly cross paths with some of them.

Imperial Moth, Eacles imperialis

There are also over 100 species of breeding birds in the area, and we'll be in the midst of breeding season. It'll be tempting to occasionally turn the binoculars to the feathered crowd, which includes species such as Blue Grosbeak, Hesnlow's Sparrow, and Prairie Warbler. We're almost sure to encounter those strange moth-eating goatsuckers of the night, too: Eastern Whip-poor-will and its much rarer (in Ohio) relative the Chuck-will's-widow.

Luna, Actias luna

While giant silkmoths such as the Luna are in decline in parts of their ranges, no such losses seem evident in Shawnee and vicinity. In fact, the nightlights at the entrance to Shawnee lodge often attract all manner of interesting moths, and it can sometimes cause delays leaving the building is one is tempted to gawk over whatever has flown in and landed on the walls.

Modest Sphinx, Pachysphinx modesta.

Moths are truly one of the most fascinating components of natural history, and without doubt one of Nature's most underappreciated elements. Without them - and their caterpillars - disaster would befall us, so important are the roles that these insects play.

Rosy Maple Moth, Dryocampa rubicunda

I vividly remember the first time that I encountered a Rosy Maple Moth. I was stunned to learn that such a gorgeous pink-and-yellow beast existed, and then equally stunned to learn that they are quite common. We'll see Rosy Maple Moths at Mothapalooza, and if you've never seen one I suspect you'll be as smitten as I was.

Snowy Geometer, Eugonobapta nivosaria

Even though we're still a ways out from Mothapalooza, think Spring and get your tickets now! This should truly be a memorable event full of interesting natural history experiences, moths and otherwise. All of the details are RIGHT HERE!

1 comment:

Wren nests in... said...

"Giant Moth-Eating Bird Wilderness Expedition!”

Only you would come up with a title like that, Jim...